There's been plenty of discussion about the historic authenticity of "Niflaos Maharal", a book that appeared in the early 1900s describing how the Maharal made a Golem to defend the Jews against blood libels.

My question isn't authenticity; it's accuracy. Has anyone compared the description of Golem-making found in Niflaos Maharal with, say, the procedure found in Sefer Yetzira?

Sure enough, Niflaos Maharal is available online; check out Chapter 8 for the description of how the Golem was made. (This corresponds to the English-language legends I'd seen as a child.) It talks about how the Maharal himself fit the element of air, and the Golem was made of earth (actually "dust"), so he brought along one student who was fire and one who was water.

Is something like the four-element-people thing found in classical kabbalistic texts on Golems, or unique to Niflaos Maharal?

  • If I'm not mistaken, Sefer Yetzira is available in English, translated by R' Aryeh Kaplan. There have been many Golem books based on Niflaos Maharal, but is there a complete English translation available?
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 14, 2010 at 14:08
  • Just curious, assuming Niflaos Maharal was fiction written by R' Yudel Rosenberg, what texts he was working off for the kabalistic bits.
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 15, 2010 at 19:30
  • I think I read a Hazon Ish about this is in mishna berura. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 2:21
  • Somewhat related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/13516.
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 22, 2012 at 17:16
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16236/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 12, 2013 at 3:56

3 Answers 3


While Sefer Yetzirah does give a basic outline in creating a Golem(though arguably that is not the primary purpose of those parts), it does not give a specific formula. Much of that is relegated to the commentaries, and even there the procedure is patchy at best.

The most detailed instructions can be found in the commentaries of Avraham Abulafia and an until recently unpublished commentary by Rabbi Haim Vital. Notably both of those differ in specifics. That seems to be down to a basic difference in shita.

There is no certainty as to which version of the Sefer Yetzirah that was used by the Maharal. There are textual varients. There is one that the Gra had, there is one that the Ramak had(mostly the main text published under that title). There is the one that Abulafia had, and there is the one that R' Haim Vital claims to have recieved as accurate from the Arizal. Aryeh Kaplan for instance published five versions of the text in his work on the subject, and at that point the texts of Abulafia were unpublished, and the text of Haim Vital was as yet undiscovered.

The basic story of the Maharal is accurate to what is revealed explicitly in the Sefer Yetzirah. The Shem Gedolim of the Hida reports that the Maharal created a golem and that he was a Kabbalistic master. However I doubt that the story is explicit in all of the details of making a Golem.

Four element people is a classic Kabbalistic idea found within sefer Yetzirah and other Kabbalistic texts. It isn't just Golems, but complete creatures(humans) in general. Animals are tri-elemental, plants bi-elemental and rocks... well you get the idea.

  • See my additional question above -- does the four-element people thing appear in any of these sources?
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 15, 2010 at 13:08
  • 2
    Answer has been edited to include your second part. Commented Sep 15, 2010 at 18:41
  • "There is no certainty as to which version of the Sefer Yetzirah that was used by the Maharal" whatever the Maharal had has no bearing on the 'Niflaos Maharal'.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 2:45
  • "The Shem Gedolim of the Hida reports that the Maharal created a golem" Really?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 2:46
  • 3
    – TwoOs
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 3:28

Sefer yetsirah defenitely does play a big role in the aspect of the golem, but it is more than that.

one would have to be a master of the entire pardes--(pshat remes drash and sod) to fully "create" as the great sages were.

one would have to know the sod of the letters with a heart thats pure and have fear of heaven.

  • 1
    I'm not debating that point -- plus the Vilna Gaon is said to have commented that the text of Sefer Yetzira has been corrupted. But nonetheless: does the basic description in Niflaos Maharal somewhat correspond to Sefer Yetzira (or other kabbalistic works), or is it entirely different?
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 14, 2010 at 14:07

As far as I have learned over the years one should be really careful in interpreting, if not fully understanding, the underlying principles of how the sages spoke to us concerning the core principles of mysticism. Ask yourself, is the Golem in those writings literal? On the same context as the Golem, were the created calf for eating literal animals? If it is, if it is not, what moral and spiritual implications do those teach us? It's up for you to understand but most of the time those writings go beyond what is written in black and white.

  • +1 for echoing the words of great rishonim and acharonim before you. But, it seems as though the question is assuming the literal existence of the golem, which is a legitimate belief.
    – jake
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 17:06
  • Thank you. Pardon me if ever I stepped within the boundaries of my limited knowledge on the subject. I am but a student struggling on my own to seek better understanding. I hope to find enlightenment on the subject matter from this site. Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 17:25
  • 1
    @jake, What, I'm the only one who's allowed to be welcoming?!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 17:57
  • 2
    @IsaacMoses, I felt bad pulling the welcome card before you did, as you seem to have dibs. ;)
    – jake
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 18:08
  • 3
    @jake I hereby renounce any perceived dibs: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/190/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 18:11

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